Photographing the world from the sky can be an amazing experience. Not only will you capture unique photos, but often they will show familiar scenes in a way that people haven’t seen before. But capturing aerial photographs can be tough, so here 7 tips to help you capture better aerial photos.
Check Your Gear
It might seem obvious to say, but the first thing you should do is double and triple check your equipment before heading out for any shoot but for aerial photography this can be even more imperative as often due to the cost and time you won’t get a chance to go back again for a while.
I’ll never forget being in a hot air balloon and someone next to me suddenly realized that they hadn’t packed an extra battery when his ran out. Once you are on the plane, helicopter or hot air balloon, before you take off make sure your equipment is accessible and packed away safely.
Time Your Shoot
Aerial photography is no different to any other type of photography in that the timing of your shoot is just as important as the composition. An overcast or cloudy day will give you dull looking photos even if you can fly below the clouds. But even photos taken in the middle of the day on sunny days will appear flat and uninteresting.
Early morning and late afternoon will provide a beautiful soft light and long shadows that can help bring your photos to life. If you are able to, try capturing photos a day or two after rainfall, which can help keep pollution levels down and thus avoiding hazy looking photos. A polarizing filter can also help to cut through the haze in your photos.
Fast Shutter Speed
Being on a plane can sometimes be misleading in telling you how fast you are travelling so trying to capture anything from above requires a fast shutter speed. The exact figure will depend on a lot of factors, how fast you are travelling and also how steady you can hold a camera, but generally speaking, the faster the better (I would start at 1/250 sec or above).
Often for this type of photography setting your camera on shutter priority can be a big help as it means you can set the shutter speed and let the camera set the aperture.
Don’t Lean On The Plane
Whilst it might seem like a logical idea, resting your camera on the body of the plane if you are having trouble keeping it steady is a bad idea. The vibrations in the body of the plane shake your camera and mean you end up with blurred photos. Instead you are better off raising your ISO level to allow you to set a faster shutter speed.
This also applies if you are photographing from a window of a plane. Don’t rest your camera on the glass as the vibrations will give you blurred photos. Instead put a hood on your lens and get it as close to the glass as possible without touching it. This should help avoid unwanted reflections in the glass whilst giving you a sharp image.
Try Hot Air Balloons
If you are after a better and calmer ride, a hot air balloon is a much better alternative to planes and helicopters. In a hot air balloon you avoid noisy engines, vibrations and propellers and wings in your photos and they are usually cheaper to rent than planes and helicopters.
Look For Patterns
One of the best compositions in aerial photography is capturing patterns and abstract details that from above can just look like works of art. Whether it’s a series of farms, a beach or even rows and rows of houses can look incredible and give you portfolio a diverse look and feel. So make sure you keep your eyes open for these types of composition and if you are able to capture them looking down (but obviously stay safe, don’t lean too far over).
Can’t Afford To Take To The Skies?
Don’t forget that you don’t necessarily have to fly to capture aerial photos. Often in cities the best option for capturing aerial photos are from tall skyscrapers but even natural elements like mountains can provide opportunities for aerial photos. Always do your research and look for potential places that can help you capture these types of photos.
Aerial photography has always captivated people because it shows them a view of the world that they often don’t see. Whilst usually there is an expense that comes with capturing these types of shots, often the photos at the end are worth it.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. Dreamstime. No usage without permission.